Chris Sununu changes tune, lowers Nikki Haley expectations as Trump dominates primary polls

So much for “we’re gonna win.”

Nikki Haley’s foremost surrogate in New Hampshire, GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, is tempering expectations for the former ambassador to the United Nations in next week’s first-in-the-nation primary.

“We always wanted to have a strong second. That’s the only expectation we ever laid out there,” the governor told ABC News correspondent Byron Pitts.

That statement doesn’t quite jibe with what the governor told an audience in Londonderry Jan. 3.

After saying that “having a strong second place finish was always our goal” in the Granite State, the governor added: “We’ve got that wrapped up, guys … we’re gonna win.”

“I am not predicting anything,” Sununu told Fox News Wednesday night of his expectations for Haley in the Jan. 23 contest. “I think she could win. We’ve already exceeded expectations in terms of a one-on-one race. A strong second is going to be great. It’s going to be hard.”

New Hampshire is widely seen as Haley’s best chance to stop former President Donald Trump from cruising to the Republican nomination later this year, especially after she finished third behind Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Monday’s Iowa caucus.

Matt Wolking, the strategic communications director for the DeSantis-aligned Super PAC Never Back Down, was quick to highlight past quotes from Sununu boosting Haley’s prospects.

“It’s an absolute win,” Sununu told ABC News last month of his state’s primary. “No, it’s a win and a reset button. If everyone that could vote in the primary comes out and votes … she’s gonna win in a landslide, and that’s not an exaggeration.”

Nikki Haley has banked heavily on a strong showing in New Hampshire. Getty Images

As of Thursday, Trump was averaging 46.3% support in New Hampshire, followed by Haley at 33.5% and DeSantis at 6.0%, according to RealClearPolitics.

Haley and Trump are expected to benefit from the withdrawals of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, respectively, from the race.

While Christie has yet to endorse any candidate, Ramaswamy emphatically backed Trump and campaigned for him in New Hampshire.

Chris Sununu endorsed Nikki Haley and has urged the GOP to go against Donald Trump in the primary. AP

Meanwhile, Trump has stepped up his attacks on Haley, telling supporters in Atkinson, NH, Tuesday night that she was “counting on the Democrats and liberals to infiltrate your Republican primaries.”

“A group of people coming in that are not Republicans,” the 45th president said, “and it’s artificially boosting her numbers here, although we’re still leading her by a lot.”

Haley has returned fire, blasting Trump for fomenting “chaos and drama” while also highlighting his shortcomings on conservative issues such as running up the national debt.

Donald Trump is the runway frontrunner. REUTERS

Haley’s campaign recently rolled out a video recapping some of Trump’s previous lauding for her performance as United Nations ambassador.

“Donald Trump repeatedly praised Haley’s work as a tough-as-nails UN Ambassador who stood up to America’s enemies and defended our friends,” Haley communications director Nachama Soloveichik said. 

He’s only singing a different tune now because he’s threatened by Haley’s rise in the polls.”

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